Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quo Vadis Timoteus

“Quo Vadis, Timoteus?”

These days I search the papers for possible job opportunities.  It’s not that I hate my job or anything of that kind.  Neither am I tiring of the kids I teach.  It’s just that I’ve reached a plateau in my life where I find it hard to motivate myself.  I feel that I have done all I have ever wished to do in teaching.  I have taught all the subjects and levels of same that I have ever wished.  Every day seems to be more of the same, and I appear to be just going through the motions.  It has taken me some eight weeks in therapy to realise this.  I suppose having always really wanted to be a teacher – in fact since I was seven years of age – and really never having questioned this vocation for any real length of time meant that I had not realised how much my deeper spirit was restless.  Listening to my dreams also has helped.  I discussed one such dream with my therapist last week.  

The dream went thus: I was a passenger in a car driven by a former teacher and professor who was retired when I knew him at school.  He was our school librarian and I was a prefect in that library.  He was a classical scholar and had edited and written many books.  He had always inspired me as he was the very first person I knew who had a doctorate.  His name was James J. Carey, and in my dream he was my taxi driver.  We were heading towards Fairview (from Ballybough where I grew up) where my present school is located.  Suddenly James J. swung the steering wheel to the left and forced the car across the traffic and up onto the footpath and from there onto Clonliffe Road where I had gone to college many years previously.  What does that dream say to me?

Quite obviously it shows that my direction in life, especially my academic life, is changing.  I want to follow the path of James J.  I have long wanted to return to academia, and this dream has certainly reinforced it.  Over the next many sessions I need to explore where I want to go with both my professional and personal life.  I suppose at 48 I have reached the classic midlife crisis.  They say the word “crisis” comes from a root word meaning “opportunity” as well as “suffering”.  There is a lot of truth in that contention. I need to gather whatever remnants of courage I possess, take risks and strike out on a new path.  At least now I realise that I do need to find a new path. “Quo vadis, Timoteus?”  Over the next posts hopefully I’ll explore this question. The picture I have inserted centre top is one of wheel tracks I took on Donabate beach some weeks back.

Outside the Box

Outside the Box

There are many phrases which are fast becoming common currency or clichés of late.  One such phrase is “to think outside the box.”  Each and every one of us likes to think that we are objective and impartial.  However, despite our best efforts we find ourselves, alas, to be all too human, that is all too partial and prejudiced.  To be impartial and objective is a very good ideal, but like all ideals, it is more of an aspiration than a reality.  However, it’s a worthwhile aim – at least we know we are going in the right direction.

I suppose in the end of the day “self-knowledge”, or whatever wisdom we have garnered through suffering, is the most worthwhile knowledge we can learn.  Consequently our project in life is to make ourselves if I may be permitted an existential flourish here.  Or if we to look to Carl Ransom Rogers, we might subscribe to what he terms “self-realization” or “self-actualization”.   We might even engage in more formal counselling or psychotherapy, and in so doing actively and positively attempt to get to know oneself.  For the last eight weeks I have been engaged in counselling, attending weekly to the inner “self” or “being” or “soul”.  Such care of soul is essentially healing.  In Gaelic spirituality there is the wonderful concept of “anamchairdeas” (soul-friendship) or “anamchara” (soul-friend).  In counselling one is literally becoming an “anamchara” or friend to one’s very own self, one’s very own “anam”.  I love this term “anam”.  Indeed, it is of course, cognate to its Latin partner “anima” or soul.

One might at first gaze think that counselling is nothing short of “navel-gazing”, a preoccupation with the self – a veritable a narcissism, or worse still philosophically, a veritable solipsism.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Firstly counselling works at breaking down the ego in its many manifestations, thereby unmasking inauthenticity in its legion aspects.  The real self or soul will eventually shine forth like the sun breaking through the clouds which cloak it in such different apparel from day to day.  

In this way, bit by bit, as authenticity becomes the “sun” or centre that illumines one’s life, objectivity about reality becomes more “real”.  One is less dealing with one’s own issues, or reacting emotionally to events, as one deals with the daily issues one encounters. To some extent from the warp and woof of the fabric one can begin to unravel the ties of one's own issues and then begin to look more objectively at the overall pattern in the tapestry.  Please excuse the surfeit of metaphors here.  Sometime words trip up one another as I hastily attempt to give them form and shape.
And so it becomes easier as it were “to think outside the box.”  It becomes easier “to look at something from a different angle” or “to move back from a problem to gain perspective” to use other metaphors.  I will return to this theme again as I think that sound philosophical principles can not alone lead to clear thinking, but also to a calmer and less stressful and frenetic existence.